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America’s Shame: The U.S. Government’s Human Trafficking Dilemma

Joe Newman – (POGO) – May 7, 2012 – For Vinnie Tuivaga, the offer was the answer to a prayer: A job in a luxury hotel in Dubai–the so-called Las Vegas of the Persian Gulf–making five times what she was earning as a hair stylist in her native Fiji.

She jumped at the chance, even if it meant paying an upfront commission to the recruiter.

You probably know how this story is going to end. There was no high-paying job, luxury location or easy work.

Tuivaga and other Fijians ended up in Iraq where they lived in shipping containers and existed in what amounted to indentured servitude.

Journalist Sarah Stillman told Tuivaga’s story and that of tens of thousands of other foreign workers in acute detail almost a year ago in her New Yorker piece, “The Invisible Army.”

In some cases, Stillman found more severe abuses and more squalid living conditions than what Tuivaga and her fellow Fijians experienced.

But like Tuivaga, thousands of foreign nationals in the U.S. government’s invisible army ended up in Iraq and Afghanistan war zones because they fell victim to human traffickers.

Let that sink in.

This human trafficking pipeline wasn’t benefitting some shadowy war lord or oppressive regime. No, these are workers who were feeding, cleaning up after, and providing logistical support for U.S. troops—the standard-bearers of the free and democratic world. Read the remainder of this entry »

Dealing: Even Ex-Federal Watchdogs Are Doing It

Is this the future CWC Commissioners role?

Dina Rasor – (Truthout | Solutions) – January 12, 2012 – Several years ago, I pushed for a revival of the old “Truman Committee” in the US Congress to look at war fraud and profiteering in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I had just written a book[4] about the fraud and waste by contingency contractors in the Iraq war and was shocked, even after 30 years of investigating the Pentagon, at how much the government was being cheated, especially at the expense of our troops.

Sens. Claire McCaskill and Jim Webb pushed for a revival of a Truman Committee-style look at our wartime contracting because they, too, were shocked at what they were seeing in these current wars’ private contracting. The original Truman Committee exposed and corrected major fraud in World War II while the war was still going on. Truman, then a senator from Missouri, was proud that he found fraud and actually sent a general to jail.

The idea for the committee was to have it run and staffed by a group of current members of Congress, but politics intervened and, instead, the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) was staffed and chaired by appointees from each of the political parties. Even though I promoted this commission in my past life as a Huffington Post blogger because of the desperate need for oversight in this area, I knew that it might have turned out like many other commissions on Department of Defense (DoD) spending that I had witnessed over the years. Without having current, working members of Congress with subpoena and other investigative powers, I feared that this commission would not have the clout to really make a difference and change this destructive contracting. I testified in front of this commission and advised them several times, but could see the politics on the part of the appointees.

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Neil Gordon: Two Former Watchdogs Ring in the New Year on the Other Side of the Revolving Door

NEIL GORDON – (POGO) – January 5, 2011 – Welcome to another episode of “As the Washington Revolving Door Turns.” The two latest ex-government officials to land jobs with private companies formerly served as very high-profile watchdogs of those companies.

The first revolver is Michael Thibault, former co-chairman and commissioner of the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan (CWC). The CWC released its final report in August and officially sunset a month later—with all of its internal records sealed from public view until 2031, unfortunately. Last month, Thibault joined DynCorp International as its vice president of government finance and compliance. Thibault worked for many years at the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), serving as Deputy Director from 1994 until 2005. Between his government postings at the DCAA and CWC, Thibault briefly worked for federal contractors Navigant Consulting and Unisys.

DynCorp, one of the three primary LOGCAP IV contractors, is currently the 32nd largest contractor in POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database. It has nine instances of misconduct since the early 2000s and $19.6 million in penalties. Readers of POGO’s blog are probably familiar with some of DynCorp’s checkered history, as are those who saw the 2010 movie “The Whistleblower”, which was based on the harrowing experiences of former DynCorp employee Kathryn Bolkovac.

All I want for Christmas is a new IG & other news

Pentagon Inspector General Gordon Heddell to Step Down on Christmas Eve
Nick Schwellenbach – (POGO) – November 26, 2011 – POGO got word this morning that Department of Defense Inspector General (DoDIG) Gordon Heddell announced earlier this week that he will step down as IG on December 24, Christmas Eve. Heddell’s email announcing his upcoming resignation is posted below.

Heddell has had a challenging task. To say that the DoD is a bastion of questionable spending and is rife with secrecy would be understatements. But that would only begin to describe the oversight difficulties. It is essentially the only government department that is unauditable. Different whistleblower laws with different standards apply to civilians versus military personnel versus contractor personnel. The chaos of war makes fact-finding more difficult and more expensive to conduct. Plus, Heddell inherited an office that has been described by many insiders who’ve talked to me and others as a backbiting place. The Office of Inspector General (OIG) is a bit of a colossus too: more than 1600 people worked in the OIG as of March of this year. (Click HERE for article)

Birmingham law firms praised for inspiring Bosnian sex-trade exposé The Whistleblower
By Graeme Brown – (Birmingham Post) – November 25, 2011 – Two West Midlands lawyers whose fight to expose a United Nations cover-up of the Bosnian sex trade was turned into a film have said it highlights the importance of pro-bono work which goes on in the region.

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